The 3 best tips to have a fantastic relationship


I have wanted to understand women since I was 15 years old. And I have learned 3 valuable lessons from 20+ years of study.

I started my academic study of women in primary school at the age of 15. I decided that I had to do something to better understand how women tick. I started reading books on psychology and got myself some female friends. It took a lot of work and study to make them more than friends — that can be a bad trap I learned.

In high school, I started getting serious practical experience with women. Even countless books, practice, and classes in psychology did not get me much closer to understand them though or to understand how to ace relationships. Not as much as I wanted to. But it led me to University where I studied psychology and communications — thinking “this must be it”.

It would take me another 10 years of practical experience to get closer to understanding either women or relationships. I will not claim to understand women completely, which is probably on the same scale as understanding the universe. But I have discovered some useful tips to get amazing results in relationships with them.


1. Accept your partner as they are, do not try to change them!

A general rule of thumb: YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED IN CHANGING ANYONE IN ANY SIGNIFICANT WAY — but you may well spend a lot of time trying. I have tried this in many of my early relationships. An early girlfriend of mine and I worked hard at our relationship — at changing each other to be the perfect fit. I didn’t like her jealousy and wanted more freedom and trust (What a cliché). She wanted me to be more attentive and focus my energy on her (cliché again).

It did not work. Repeat after me:

“You cannot change people in any significant way.”

Yes, I am aware of neuroplasticity and our malleable brains. Positive psychology and all the other theories of how we are all in constant flux. It is probably all true. But it is also true that for people to change they need to really really want to change and that must come from within. Change will seldom happen just because someone else wants you to pick up your clothes. My wife used to do that, put her clothes everywhere by the way (wait for the next section to hear how we fixed that).

If your relationship is about changing your partner, then the relationship will not work. You will have to choose to either find a different partner or accept your partner as they are and work from there.

Remember to focus on what is inside your zone of influence, as Stephen Covey pointed out in 7 habits. That is where your chances of success are greatest.

Especially when it comes to the small things, that you try to get your partner to do differently. It is important to stop trying to change those. Think about one of the things he/she does — is it the toilet seat? Is it laundry on the floor? Is it putting dirty dishes in the sink and not the washer? Whatever it is that irritates you: Accept that it cannot be changed and every time you encounter it:

“breathe, let go and move on.”

And then you can try

2. Problem annihilation

There are so many things you can do to change a situation without trying to change your partner. Instead of thinking about the actions as inconsiderate or problematic, then disconnect your feelings from the person and think about it as a structural problem to fix.

“The best way to avoid conflicts is to prevent them from happening. Create an environment that does not trigger the problem.”

In my case, as promised, my wife can be a little bit messy with her stuff. That can irritate me. I actually get a little stressed when too much stuff is lying around everywhere. With two small kids, things usually do.

That meant I could, as I have done in past relationships, try to change my wife to be better at picking her stuff up. But that does not work. The only outcome is that I will be nagging her constantly to change her behavior and she will become more and more annoyed with my nagging. That will lead to less affection and … divorce. Ok, granted, that may be a little extreme. But truth be told, it will not lead to anything good.

So what did I do? I created islands of mess for her. We have a chair in the bedroom where she can pile clothes. And a spot on the stairs to the first floor. Stuff is no longer on the floor, on the bed, on the sofa and many other places but contained to one area of the bedroom and one area on the first floor. And yes, sometimes I will be the one putting clothes there when I find it in other places. And that is ok. That is part of her, that I will not try to change, and we are much better together for it.

Another good example, just to put myself even more on the spot here: I can be a little lazy with the practical stuff at home. Changing light bulbs. Fixing the squeaky door handle. My wife can be that too. We had a lot of arguments about that when we bought our first house. Trying to get the other person to “take responsibility and get stuff done”. It didn’t work. We just got annoyed with each other.

So what did we do? We gamified it with a bulletin board in our kitchen. First, we made it a positive part of our kitchen with pictures of our family and friends and then we cleared a corner for small post-it notes with tasks on. Now every time something needs to be done we just put it up there and talk about them once in a while. To help things from not piling up, we also implemented a new rule of life:

“Today is better”

If it takes less time to fix than to write on the note, just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t talk about it. Just do it straight away. Amazing how much will get done when thinking that way. (That was a bonus tip, third one still up)

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

3. Always the small things!

For just a minute, let’s get back to the small things. We already talked about not trying to change your partner. Especially when it comes to the small things in everyday life. Instead, find solutions to circumvent your irritation. There is another very important point around small things:

“The rule of 5:1 positive”

This is an important point made by John Gray, the author of Men are from Mars and women from Venus. (obviously an early read in my academic study of women).

The rule is: It takes five positive things or comments to equate every negative.

That may sound like a daunting task to keep up? Think about it like this: Every time you skip a negative, you will save yourself from five positives. and the five positives give you a chance to show affection often. The dividends for that are greater than you can imagine.

Related to the rule above, John Gray points to the fact that grand gestures don’t give you that many points. I would not recommend treating your relationship as a point system but think about it as a reflection exercise. One of his examples is bringing flowers home to your wife. If you bring home a bouquet of ten red roses, chances are they will be very well received. If you bring home twenty, will that count more? Not likely.

The important point is not to miss the quality of doing many small things. Not gifts and roses and all that, but remember to give compliments. Massage your partner for a minute in the morning at breakfast or give her an extra tight hug. Sometimes just taking the time to look her in the eyes will give you more than any grand gesture will. (And this goes as much to the women out there, men likes these things as well).

So to summarize in order of importance:

  1. Don’t try to change your partner to fit your preferences, there will be little chance of that.
  2. Instead, try to fix the situations or the triggers that lead to the behavior you don’t like and learn to breathe and let go.
  3. And last, focus on the positives. When you focus on making your partner happy and feel loved, you will get so much in return.

Breathe, let go and move on. That is the key to most problems in life”

Quote of the Dane

Published on Medium Nov 1, 2019